I have visited the Republic of Benin a couple of times, one thing I noticed is the lack of filling stations across the nation. So I decided on my next visit, I will look out for fuel stations. One thing is obvious, at every corner of the country, there are black fuel marketers selling fuels in gallons along the street. This can be seen in almost every nook and cranny of this country.
On further enquiry, I discovered most of the fuel was smuggled from Nigeria. After spending three days in the city and driving several kilometres. Finally, I found only three fuel stations. Out of the three, only one of them had fuel. It is because people hardly buy fuel from filling stations. They prefer to buy from black marketers. You will hardly see cars pulling over at filling stations to purchase fuel. Other residents who do not buy the black market fuel would travel from the Republic of Benin towards Seme or Idiroko border in Nigeria to purchase fuel, then drive back to their country.
It got me thinking, how can a whole country run on illegal fuel trade? It is a story for another day.
- The majority of the fuel used in Benin is smuggled from Nigeria
- There is an organized fuel smuggling cartel that smuggles fuel from Nigeria into Benin.
- These trades are aided by the Nigerian customs, police and immigration officers stationed along that route. The illegal oil marketers pay bribes to be able to ship through the route. Also, the Nigerian borders are so porous, people also smuggle fuel through some illegal routes.
- These illegal trades serve as a source of employment to thousands of Benin Republicans who engage in this trade.
- Fuel in the Republic of Benin is more expensive than in Nigeria. Buying fuel in Nigerian is cheaper because the cost of petrol is subsidized by the Government.
- The Benin Republic Government is turning a blind eye to this illegal trade. This illegal business serves as a source of livelihood to thousands of residents. Also, it does not have any negative economic implications on their economy.
- The smuggled fuel in Benin is between 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than the official pump price. This illegal trade didn’t start today, it has been ongoing for over 2 decades.